The statement by Delhi expressing “deep concern” at Turkey’s military offensive in the northeastern region of Syria which has a dominant Kurdish population, and expressing fears for the stability of the region and the fight against terrorism is, in all probability, what it seems to be — a hit at Turkey for its critical statements against India on Kashmir. On August 6, a day after the government announced its decision to revoke the special status of J&K and bifurcate the state into two Union Territories, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had expressed concern that it “could further increase the existing tensions”. Later, he was the first to speak at the UN General Assembly to raise the Kashmir issue and say that the world had “failed” to pay attention to what was happening there. It is not incidental here that the Turkey-Pakistan friendship goes back many decades: In recent years, Nawaz Sharif reached out to Erdogan during the attempted military coup against the latter, and visited the Turkish president after he managed to take back control.
It is unusual for India to hit out in this manner. Delhi has not commented before on Turkey’s ambivalent role in the crisis that has unfolded in the region since ISIS erupted on the scene in the middle of 2014. In general, India does not comment on actions by a country not in its neighbourhood and unlikely to have an impact, at least immediately, on it. The statement on Turkey may be part of the “with us, or against us” style of diplomacy that has taken hold in South Block in recent years, where a country must profess loyalty to India and be critical of Pakistan to make the cut. This would be all very well if India was an economic powerhouse. But to be struggling along in terms of growth rate, and to make enemies of other nations in this manner, is not the wisest thing to do. As India knows, every country is worth its weight in votes at many multilateral forums. The election of India’s nominee to the International Court of Justice at The Hague came in 2017 because of the widespread support that India garnered. As many as 183 countries voted for India’s nominee. There were zero votes against him, and 10 abstentions.
Such goodwill may be hard to come by if Delhi goes around dividing its world into Pakistan lovers and Pakistan bashers, and building its foreign relations accordingly. With the India-Pakistan hyphenation it encourages, that would also be so last century.